Pop-up flashes often get a bad rep. Sure, they aren’t as versatile as a hot shoe flash. Yes, they don’t have much power. But does that mean you should ignore the pop-up flash on your DSLR entirely? Not at all. In fact, the pop-up flash can be a very useful tool, and unlike a hot shoe flash, you don’t have to spend more money or bring one more thing along with you.
But, using the pop-up flash requires a bit more knowledge than simply popping up the flash. It’s all too easy to ruin a photo with a pop-up flash. By understanding how the pop-up flash works, however, it can be used to snap photos that don’t look like a flash was used at all. Here are seven tricks to snapping great photos with simply your pop-up flash.
1. Use it as a fill flash
Here’s a secret many beginning photographers aren’t aware of. The best use of flash isn’t for when there’s not enough light. The best use of flash is for when there’s too much light. The sun is a bright light source that creates a lot of harsh shadows. Popping up your flash will fill in those shadows, for a more evenly lit image.
The use of a fill flash is essential to shooting outdoors in bright sunlight. If you are shooting portraits, having your subject face the sun will leave them squinting. If you put the sun behind them, they’ll be a silhouette. Unless, of course, you use a fill flash. Shooting into the sun with a fill flash allows you to get a portrait without squinting and without having your subject turn into a dark blob. Since you don’t need a lot of power for a fill flash, the pop-up flash often does the trick.
2. Add a diffuser
The smaller and closer that a light source is, the harsher the shadows will be. Since the pop-up flash is a small (and often close) light source, it usually results in some pretty harsh shadows. A diffuser will spread out that light, making those shadows much less intense.
Diffusing the light will also cut back on some of the intensity, so a diffuser isn’t the best option for when you need to harness all of your flash’s power. However, if you are using the pop-up for just a bit more light, a diffuser will come in handy keeping harsh shadows at bay.